D-DAY Anniversary: They said 'just keep going' - so we did

The beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944 – a blur of action

Ted today

First published in East Lancashire
Last updated
Chorley Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

SEVENTY years ago today, thousands of British and Allied troops men set off from the south coast of England to invade Nazi-occupied France.

It was a day that would change the course of history. Among those men was tank driver Ted Davidson, of Padiham.

He spoke to reporter Dan Clough about his experience.

 

“YOU couldn’t really tell what was going on it was that noisy and smoky. It was like being in an inferno.”

Ted Davidson, 88, recalls the moment his landing craft arrived at Normandy on June 6, 1944.

“You just did your job when you were in the Scots Guards,” he continues. “They just said ‘just keep going’ so we kept going.”

Ted was just 18 when he was ordered to drive his Churchill tank up Sword beach and head towards the tactically crucial city of Caen in France.

It was a terrifying experience for the young guardsman in his first overseas posting since joining the Scots Guards.

Ted, from Cheshire but by 1939 living with his aunt in Edinburgh, was 14 when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi army invaded Poland, forcing Winston Churchill to declare war on Germany.

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And when he was 17 he enlisted in the Army.

He said: “I was in the Black Watch to start with, which was the Scottish infantry, but as I was only 17 I was too young to go abroad.

“I was basically in a holding unit, which was very boring.

“There was a noticeboard and every morning it said they wanted volunteers who were 5ft 10ins and over.

“I didn’t know what I was volunteering for, but I signed up anyway.”

Ted, now vice-president of the Burnley and Padiham branch of the Royal British Legion, had signed up for the Scots Guards Third Tank Battalion and was posted to Bovington in Dorset where he trained with the Royal Tank Regiment.

Chorley Citizen:

In the run-up to D-Day, he said it was clear an invasion was imminent.

He said: “There was no information about going over as it was all top secret.

“But you could tell something was happening as you could see it building up and there were more and more troops arriving.”

When D-Day arrived, Ted was put aboard one of thousands of special landing craft, along with his tank and his crew.

Ted, of Coronation Avenue, Padiham, said: “It was very rough going across and everybody was seasick.

“The floors of the landing crafts were made of steel and the tanks were chained to the floor but one or two of them broke loose and slid around a bit.

“We thought it was going to be a piece of cake but it clearly wasn’t. I think we got caught with our trousers down a bit.

“And when you saw what was going on you just wondered if you were going to get through it or not.

“I never shook with fright but I was very apprehensive.

“I reconciled myself by thinking I was either going to make it or I wasn’t and that is how I got through the whole of the war.”

When the landing crafts hit the beach and the ramps went down, Ted and his crew were already in the tank ready to go.

He said: “We just drove off the craft and headed up the beach.

“There was still quite a lot of beach fighting when we got there.

“We had to find the right spot as the tanks were more than 50 tonnes.

“Some tanks had one or two problems getting up the beach and some got damaged but it was just a case of getting on with it.

“I could see flashes and gunfire but in a tank you are very limited.

“You have got a view ahead through a small aperture but I was just watching the land in front of me.”

It wasn’t until Ted and his battalion were inland that the true horrors of war caught up with him.

He said: “We got about five or 10 miles inland and we were ambushed by a Panzer anti-tank unit.

“We lost about 12 tanks, each with five men inside.

“When you lose a tank there is so much ammunition and gas in them that you have no chance.

“It was terrible.

“Thankfully my tank crew got through unscathed. We were all very close.”

After Normandy, Ted continued right through Europe, and was one of the first tanks into Holland, ending up on the Baltic coast of Germany.

He stayed on in Germany for two years after the war before returning home and eventually became a policeman in the West Midlands, which is where he met his late wife, Dorothy, who passed away eight years ago.

From there he took a college course in groundsmanship and was offered a job at Burnley Football Club in 1977, spending more than a decade looking after the club’s training ground at Gawthorpe.

Comments (9)

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9:29am Fri 6 Jun 14

Old age pensioner says...

We owe these lads and lasses so so much, a big thank you from me, enjoy your day, you deserve it.
We owe these lads and lasses so so much, a big thank you from me, enjoy your day, you deserve it. Old age pensioner
  • Score: 11

9:31am Fri 6 Jun 14

Excluded again says...

On this day 70 years ago over 130 000 young men from all over the world landed on the beaches of Normandy. It was the beginning of the end for fascism in Europe. Over 4 000 of those young men died that day and thousands more in the Battle of Normandy which followed. Lest we forget
On this day 70 years ago over 130 000 young men from all over the world landed on the beaches of Normandy. It was the beginning of the end for fascism in Europe. Over 4 000 of those young men died that day and thousands more in the Battle of Normandy which followed. Lest we forget Excluded again
  • Score: 11

9:32am Fri 6 Jun 14

Old age pensioner says...

You then read the next story further down on the LT (thugs torture cat) and you wonder was it worth it, the Scum should be sent to jail.
You then read the next story further down on the LT (thugs torture cat) and you wonder was it worth it, the Scum should be sent to jail. Old age pensioner
  • Score: 8

9:37am Fri 6 Jun 14

past it says...

Some very moving accounts on the TV and in the press, please never forget what the old men you see now did for us when they where in their youth.
Some very moving accounts on the TV and in the press, please never forget what the old men you see now did for us when they where in their youth. past it
  • Score: 9

11:06am Fri 6 Jun 14

vicn1956 says...

Everyone should go to Flanders or Normandy once in their life to see the sacrifice and remember. And be grateful!
Everyone should go to Flanders or Normandy once in their life to see the sacrifice and remember. And be grateful! vicn1956
  • Score: 7

11:13am Fri 6 Jun 14

vicn1956 says...

Also-
many cemeteries in Lancashire have war graves. In November take time to find one and leave a poppy.
Also- many cemeteries in Lancashire have war graves. In November take time to find one and leave a poppy. vicn1956
  • Score: 6

12:33pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Jack Herer says...

Brave, brave, brave men.

When the chips were down, they were the ones who stood up to be truly counted.

We owe them so much.

We should never forget.
Brave, brave, brave men. When the chips were down, they were the ones who stood up to be truly counted. We owe them so much. We should never forget. Jack Herer
  • Score: 7

1:58pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Stone Island: says...

These people have my utmost respect.
These people have my utmost respect. Stone Island:
  • Score: 6

3:11pm Sun 8 Jun 14

glossopkid says...

Stone Island: wrote:
These people have my utmost respect.
Totally agree, my grandfather, my great uncles all fought in the war. May these brave souls be remembered for ever....
[quote][p][bold]Stone Island:[/bold] wrote: These people have my utmost respect.[/p][/quote]Totally agree, my grandfather, my great uncles all fought in the war. May these brave souls be remembered for ever.... glossopkid
  • Score: 3

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